It’s that time of the year when we see brilliant works of art at various Ganpati pandals across the city. Renowned art director Nitin Desai, who has created many awe-inspiring sets for movies, will recreate the famous Tirupati Balaji temple in Mumbai for Ganesh Chaturthi, which starts on Saturday. The 125-ft tall set, which will be unveiled in Kandivali East today, is the tallest replica of the original temple.
Tirupati in Mumbai
The two-time National Award-winning art director, who created Shivaji’s forts for Lalbaugcha Raja in 2008, says he chose this setting to respect people’s wishes. “Many people wish to go to Tirupati, but can’t for some or the other reason. So I thought this year, apart from Lord Ganesha, they should also get darshan of Lord Balaji,” he says.
The art director, who completes 25 years in the movie industry, started designing sets for the Ganesh festival five years ago. “It’s my way of service to the Almighty, for whatever I have achieved today, it’s with the blessings of gods and goddesses,” he says.
He started working on the Balaji temple six monoths ago, after the organisers, Sai Cable Network, approached him to make a set for them. Although the art director doesn’t charge fees for any of the sets he creates for the festival, the cost of the material and labour for this year’s set is believed to have run into lakhs of rupees.
Desai decided on the height of the set only after he visited the location, along the Western Express Highway. “Since the approach road is wide, the set required proportionate width. And I felt that people driving on the flyover nearby should also be able to see it. So the height was dictated by the width of the temple set,” he explains.
When devotees enter the pandal starting this Saturday, they will feel as if they are entering the Tirupati Balaji Temple. “That includes the vehicles, as the entrance is designed to let the traffic move as always,” asserts Desai, adding that he and his team of nearly 225 people took care to ensure that the entire setting shaped up as an exact replica.
“Inside, the Balaji temple is the same as the one in Tirupati, with a similar idol,” he adds. “On one side, there’s an area where people can tie threads for their wishes and also pray peacefully. And behind the Balaji temple, we’ve created an ancient temple, in which the Ganesha idol will be placed, along with a social message.”
The set, currently standing at 121 feet, required 150 litres of gold paint. “There are so many gold accessories and fittings in the Tirupati Balaji Temple, so we had to ensure that we don’t miss any of those details either,” says Desai. This evening, he will place a kalash (ceremonial pot) on top of the temple with the help of a crane and snorkel, marking its completion.